Sunday, December 12, 2010

Bonding with the parental units

Husband No. 1 and I recently returned from a roadtrip to Washington, DC, to engage in some "parental units bonding," a phrase our sons use to describe what they term our "interesting" visits to their worlds.

I fear that in their view, bonding with parental units includes far too many occasions to be interrogated by a mother who seizes upon the opportunity to also closely monitor their reactions and body language during the same type of intense questioning they regularly endure during the mandated weekly calls home.

From our perspective, the delight of being able to spend time with these wonderful young men often includes using a credit card on their behalf. For me, it also means being the target of their jokes -- or the eye-rolling or head-shaking that follows when I say something they consider outrageous. I should note there that this seems to include nearly everything, but what set them off this time was opening a discussion about thongs and whether they truly qualify as underwear. Apparently they do not consider this to be appropriate Thanksgiving conversation.

So I suppose it should not surprise me that No. 2 son has declined an invitation to bond with his mother and her two best friends from high school during a cruise at the end of January. But I felt I owed him an invite as I took No. 1 son on a cruise during his college years. However, No. 2's response was "If you're going with Sheila and Diane, I think there will be a lot of stories, and I don't want to be part of them."

Still hoping to persuade him in order to remove any guilt, I persisted: "But Dad says there are nude beaches on the Turks and Caicos Islands -- wouldn't that be interesting? I told him I better stay on my diet." Long pause. Finally, he responded with a deep sigh and a weary voice (although it also might have been trembling with fear): "Please don't take any pictures, Mom."

This response also implied that if I ignored his request, it could lead to many years of therapy for him.

It occurred to me afterward that No. 2 son's ability to avoid bonding with his mother dates back many years. I first became aware of this when I happened to discover a "personal narrative" he wrote for an English class at the age of 13. It was entitled "The Halfway Interesting Trip To and From Texas (without the Texas)" and recounted our 2003 trip together to Fort Worth. This journey began with a bus ride to Boston to catch the Amtrak train and in the words of No. 2, "The bus ride was not horrible. I just sat there and listened to music the entire time even with my mom trying to 'bond' with me."

The narrative then went on to complain that we had to travel for more than two and a half days by train because his mother refused to fly and also was too cheap to pay for a sleeping car. In his words:

"It was extremely uncomfortable because I shared the seat with my mother and I could not get comfortable so I got very little sleep that night. If you have ever been on a train and sat next to someone, you know how it feels wanting to scream at the top of your lungs because you can't find a single comfortable position."

Next came what I consider to be the most revealing part of the narrative:

"After the restless night, I just did what I had done the entire trip so far: listen to music, eat food, read, sit and stare blankly out the window, repeat. This was a very sufficient system that enabled me to survive the trip of extreme boredom (and still managing to avoid 'bonding')."

Despite this proof that my son would rather be bored out of his mind than bond with me, I have continued to persist in my quest. And even though I tell him his refusal to comply could lead to years of therapy for ME, he still claims an avoidance to bonding. Maybe I should threaten to talk more about thongs unless he agrees to more bonding time with Mom.

Also, I should note here that this is the same son who gave up weekend plans with friends to accompany me and Husband No. 1 on my birthday trip to a Maine island a couple of years ago and also joined us on my birthday quest to see a moose in the wild last year. So maybe bonding with parental units isn't so bad after all.


Anonymous said...

I can never get my son to travel with me anymore--how quickly he forgets all those great trips together--now he prefers to jet around the world on his own!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for making me smile (again) on this dreary Monday morning. Nancy L.